Duke - The Fuqua School of Business

Feature Story

Can-do Attitude Helps Alumna Work Around the World

With seemingly endless energy & determination, Carla Hala (Cross Continent MBA ’07) juggles her career, an MBA, & volunteer work.

April 10, 2015

By Tim Candon — This article was originally published in the Team Fuqua alumni magazine. It was updated in April 2015.

In a word, Carla Hala (Cross Continent MBA ’07) is a generalist.

That’s how the native Brazilian explains her seamless transitions through several industries and global locations, from fast moving consumer goods in Brazil, to management consulting in the United States, to financial services in the United Kingdom.

Carla Hala

Carla Hala

“The work I did in consumer goods and consulting is similar to what I do today,” says Hala, who has been a project manager at HSBC Bank in London since September 2008. “Then and now, I had to project manage. I had to build relationships, manage a team, and get buy-in from stakeholders. If you change industry, it’s a different product or service, but the skills are the same. That’s how I was able to change jobs without any major learning curves.”

Of course, there are always some differences between industries and cultures, which Hala learned and adjusted to by really getting to know people she’s worked with, she says.

“I build relationships mainly through communication, by understanding different styles and by adapting the way I communicate to each individual. This helps to ensure that I understand their needs and concerns, and makes them feel a part of my team,” Hala says. “This is very closely related to the teamwork at Fuqua and learning to work with different individuals and personalities.”

Hala’s career progression is also a by-product of her seemingly endless energy and determination, which Alexis Mellon, Fuqua’s former Regional Manager in Europe, has seen first-hand.

“One thing that’s special about Carla is her attitude toward everything—so positive and so competent,” says Mellon. “I remember in an information session once, someone commented that it must be impossible to have a demanding, full-time job and also do an MBA like Cross Continent. Carla responded with, ‘Of course you can! You just do it! You work hard, and commit and it is done. Nothing comes easy. You have to work for things.’”

And Hala has certainly lived by her own advice. While meeting the demands of her MBA studies, she continued to work full time and even made a career change in 2006. She left Fleet Pharmaceuticals, where she was a brand manager, to become a senior consultant at Clarkston Consulting, which required frequent travelling to work at client sites across the U.S.

“It definitely wasn’t easy to balance everything,” Hala says. “It took a lot of dedication, good time management, and less sleep than usual to get everything done. The key to balancing the schedule was probably a combination of focus and determination.”

After completing her MBA, Hala was excited about giving back to Fuqua because she had enjoyed her Cross Continent experience so much. While based in London, Hala had easy access to Fuqua’s regional office there, and she generously assisted with a variety of events as a panelist and speaker.

Hala has spoken at information sessions to promote Fuqua and its programs, and she has advised dozens of prospective Cross Continent students. She also represented Duke on a Women in Business panel at the Forté Fair. The Forté Foundation promotes the involvement and advancement of women in business.

“My involvement is a continuation of the brand name I carry, the education that I have,” Hala says. “It’s very much about who you meet, the network you develop. It’s this combination that makes me continue to value the program and provide ongoing support to Fuqua.”